A fixed monthly salary, vehicles to drop them home and the right to choose working hours – bar dancers in the state could avail of all this and more once the new law, Maharashtra Regulation of Dancing Places and Bars, 2016, regulating dance bars is passed.
After the Supreme Court last week struck down six of the 26 norms proposed for obtaining dance bar licences, Maharashtra has decided to bring in fresh legislation to regulate dance bars. According to sources, the state home department plans to impose stricter norms to contain obscenity and vulgarity, which the SC accepted was within the purview of the state, and put the onus of safety of the dancers onbar owners.
The state government plans to table the draft of the proposed bill in the budget session starting March 9, although the officials are not sure if they will be able to do it, considering it would need the opinion of legal experts and senior police officers.
The bill has a provision for monthly salary, which will have to be fixed by bar owners, and the dancers will also get salary slips. Although their shift ends at 1.30am, the law will give the dancers the right to choose their work timings if they feel unsafe at night. “Maintaining a record book with entries of shift timings and giving identity cards to the dancers will be made mandatory. The draft has provisions to curb exploitation of the dancers,” said an official from the department. “The legislations passed earlier were to ban dance bars, but now the plan is to allow bars to function by laying out conditions related to location, working conditions and hours.”
The officials in the department feel in the absence of the six norms, controlling obscenity would have become tough. “We don’t want dance bars in their old obscene form. The provision for CCTV cameras, partitions between stage and customers and ban on concealed cavity rooms were made in that direction,” said an official.
Elaborating on the draft bill, Dr Vijay Satbir Singh, principal secretary, home department, said, “We will not allow exploitation of women in dance bars. The new law will plug the loopholes in the existing system to check vulgarity and obscenity.”
The officials feel the bill may not be tabled anytime soon. “We plan to consult a battery of legal experts, including the counsel representing the state in the apex court. We have also asked the director general of police and police commissioners of major cities for their opinion. This time, we want to make it fullproof, unlike the amendment in 2014, so it does not get challenged. The process may take a few months,” said an official from the department.